City Guide

Top 4 Most Expensive Places to Live in the U.S.

By Bri Hand | Jan 26, 2022
New York City skyline cityscape with Statue of liberty over the Hudson River.

Big cities have many draws—glamorous nightlife, top-notch career opportunities, mouthwatering food scenes, and incredible arts and culture right at your fingertips. But the glamour of the big city can also come with some serious sticker shock. Major cities are often notorious for also having high rental rates—and the increased costs often don’t stop there.

To that end, this guide compiles the four most expensive places to live in the U.S. and what each city has to offer, including: 

  • New York City, New York
  • San Francisco, California
  • Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Boston, Massachusetts

We’ll also dive into what you should consider before making a move. Let’s get started!

1. New York City, New York

New York City is known for a lot of things: bagels, Frank Sinatra, Central Park in autumn…and, of course, sky-high expenses. Everything costs more in New York, from rent and groceries to income taxes and parking. The city that never sleeps is one expensive place to live in.

The cost of living in New York is 129% higher than the U.S. average, with housing costs coming in at a whopping 369% higher than average. If you’re worried about being on a dollar-slice budget after moving to the Big Apple, consider a flexible short-term rental with no security deposit.

However, New York’s world-class culture, restaurants, shopping, and sights more than justify the price tag. Its five boroughs are each unique and vibrant, while also offering a slew of cheap or free experiences, such as pay-what-you-wish admission at cultural institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Queens Botanical Garden. As a New Yorker, you’ll have access to some of the best cuisine in the country—everything from dumplings in Flushing to pasta on Arthur Avenue.

2. San Francisco, California

The city by the bay isn’t just notorious for its chilly fog and tech-bro culture—with costs of living coming in at 80% higher than the national average, it’s no wonder that San Francisco is the second most expensive city in the country. Much of this is due to San Francisco’s proximity to the Silicon Valley tech scene. Despite its high price tag, its tech advancements and culture make living in this city worth it. 

With major tech companies like Facebook, Google, Uber, and Apple placing their headquarters up and down the Bay Area, rents in San Francisco have exploded over the past 10 years. A four-bedroom apartment can cost up to $4,385 a month, while a studio apartment will cost upwards of $2,073 a month.

There’s a reason everyone is flocking to the area, and it’s not just big tech. San Francisco offers old-world charm, with pastel Victorians lining the streets and old-fashioned cable cars climbing its hills, mixed with the best that California has to offer—stunning ocean views, a mild climate, and easy access to beautiful getaway spots like Napa County and Big Sur

San Francisco is also a foodie’s dream. The roast chicken over warm bread salad at Zuni Cafe is a city legend, and you’ll find some of the best dim sum in the country among the hills of San Francisco. Try Yank Sing for a traditional experience complete with carts of steaming hot dumplings or Good Luck Dim Sum in the Richmond District for the best hole in the wall in town. As a San Franciscan, you’re never too far from the water – take a Sunday walk on Ocean Beach and see if you can spot any surfers, and then warm up with coffee from Andytown Coffee Roasters and a biscuit breakfast sandwich from Devil’s Teeth Baking Company.

3. Honolulu, Hawaii

Hawaii is known for what’s called the “paradise tax,”which means everything costs that much more than in the mainland. When it comes to electricity, you can expect to pay three times more than the national average when living in Honolulu. Grocery items can also cost more, since your favorite bag of chips needs to be shipped from the mainland. In fact, a gallon of milk can cost up to $9! Gas prices are also soaring and can run up to 30 to 60 more cents per gallon.

Honolulu’s pricey lifestyle is made up for by its natural beauty. Living in Honolulu will grant you easy access to some of the most beautiful beaches and lush rainforests in the country. Make sure to check out the following after you’ve settled into your new Hawaiian lifestyle:

  • Nuuanu Valley Rain Forest: Follow the trail through a verdant rainforest to reach the Cliffs of the Nuuanu Pali Lookout, which features breathtaking views of the Windward Coast of Oahu. 
  • Hanuma Bay Nature Preserve: Come up close with nature at this marine life nature preserve that was formed inside the cone of a former volcano.
  • Manoa Falls: Hike the 1.6-mile trail through a bamboo jungle to come across the majesty of the Manoa Falls waterfall.
  • Diamond Head State Monument: Formed in a volcanic explosion over 300,000 years ago, this state park in the volcano’s crater offers up strenuous hiking, coastal views, and the chance to spot humpback whales during their winter migrations.

Additionally, from mom-and-pop restaurants to five-star dining, Honolulu is a tropical paradise in more ways than one. Helena’s Hawaiian Food offers traditional island staples like Kalua pig, luau squid, and Lomi salmon, while Senia blends island and international flavors in its elevated tasting menu.

4. Boston, Massachusetts

Being a Red Sox fan can come with a high price tag—the cost of living in Boston, Massachusetts, is 48% higher than the national average, with housing costs at an astronomical 107% higher. 

Already higher than the national average, rents in Boston are on the rise, with an increase of 11.8% for one-bedroom apartments and 14.3% for two-bedroom apartments since March 2020. A two-bedroom apartment rents for a median price of $3,375 a month, with a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house going for over $700,000. 

What Boston lacks in affordability, it makes up for in culture and career opportunities. Around 83% of Bostonians working for private companies work in either healthcare, higher education, or finance. Boston is an incredible place to be if you’re interested in working in healthcare, with some of the best hospitals in the country located in the Boston area. It’s also in close proximity to Harvard, MIT, Boston University, and Tufts. 

Boston is also a lively city with plenty to keep you occupied, whether it’s catching a game at Fenway Park, enjoying the beauty of the springtime blooms on the Boston Common, America’s oldest city park, or indulging your inner art lover at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, home to Titians, Rembrandts, and Michaelangelos (as well as one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of the art world).

Whether you’re craving traditional Thai at Dakzen or Peruvian pickings at Celeste, Boston has you covered. Or if you’re looking for a spot that offers a little bit of everything, stop by Juliet—from morning coffee to multi-course dinner options, this cozy eatery is nothing short of extraordinary. 

What to consider before making a move

It’s important to contemplate how your move and your new home will impact your finances before making any big decisions. As such, before you make a big move (and an even bigger dent in your wallet), consider the following:

  • Are there plenty of career opportunities in your field in this area?
  • Can you expect a salary increase if you move? Often, companies will accommodate for a higher cost of living in an area by offering a competitive salary to match.
  • How do you plan on getting around in your new city? Are you moving to a city with a robust public transportation system like New York City or Boston? Or, will you need a car to commute to and from work?
  • Is it a place where you can expect to pay a lot in utility bills because of extreme temperatures? If you’re turning up the air conditioner in the summer and blasting your heat in the winter, you can expect to see a spike on your monthly statement. 

Factor in comfort with Landing

Cities like these are often expensive for a reason—they offer world-class cultural attractions, top-notch job opportunities, beautiful landscapes, and thrilling entertainment. 

With Landing’s network of furnished apartments, you can keep your budget in check if you’re moving to one of the most expensive places to live in the U.S. while still experiencing the best your new city has to offer. Landing doesn’t charge security deposits, an additional month’s rent upfront, or application fees—so you can skip the usual moving worries and jump right into exploring your new home. Live the high life with Landing and browse our apartments today!

Bri Hand

Bri Hand is Landing's Content Marketing Manager. She currently lives in Salem, Massachusetts, with her partner and dog, Arlo, but relishes any opportunity she can to travel so she can try new foods, see gorgeous sights, and daydream about living somewhere new after visiting there for less than 24 hours.